Lesson 9: Symbolism, Part 2

Getting Started

Ralph is a charismatic figure who is not quite up to the tasks life throws at him. He may remind you of someone you know or of a character you have met in other novels or in movies. Piggy complains so much that people often tune him out, but much of what he says has tremendous value. He may also remind you of a neighbor, teammate, relative, or public figure. And have you ever met someone like Jack — artless, self-absorbed, and unpredictable but with a tenacity for life that impresses you?

In this lesson, you'll consider the ways Golding uses the characters and storyline to represent types of people, groups in society, and ideas that have shaped history. When you finish reading Lord of the Flies, your characterization of each boy or interpretation of chapters of the book may be a little different from others' views. The only wrong ideas are the ones that are not thoughtful and not based on the author's original text.

Stuff You Need

  • Lord of the Flies by William Golding

Ideas to Think About

  • How does individual power change in relationships with others?
  • Do individuals control groups, or do groups control individuals?
  • How do fear and desire for acceptance influence human behavior?

Things to Know

  • Archetypes are universal patterns in stories of characters, plots, themes, symbols, images, and ideas.
  • Common archetypal characters include the hero, the villain, the innocent, and the mentor.
  • When objects, characters, and scenarios are used symbolically in a story to represent an abstract idea or principles, the story is called an allegory.


  • Analyze how complex characters (e.g., those with multiple or conflicting motivations) develop over the course of a text, interact with other characters, and advance the plot or develop the theme. (LA)
  • Determine a theme or central idea of a text and analyze in detail its development over the course of the text, including how it emerges and is shaped and refined by specific details; provide an objective summary of the text. (LA)

Introducing the Lesson

At this point in the unit, students have learned about several different approaches to symbolism in literature. In this lesson, students learn about archetypes and allegories.

One common mistake in the interpretation of symbols in literature is to choose one type of symbolism and presume it must be used exclusively to interpret an entire work. However, authors often layer and combine several symbolic strategies within poems and novels.